Last night’s “Heroic Origins” episode of Community was heroic indeed, as it was the first episode of this underwhelming fourth season that has been able to keep my attention. In the latest episode, the study group is trying to study for the history class final, while Abed (Danny Pudi) embarks on yet another parody. Jeff (Joel McHale) becomes angry—blah blah blah—and we’re are thrust into a Community portrayal of the movie Unbreakable, complete with comic strip rolls between scenes as Abed tells the origin story of the study group’s existence.

Unlike other episodes in season four, it’s easy to overlook the flaws in the latest episode because the writers hit on almost every joke. Heroic Origins also works precisely because of its life as a pseudo-clip episode, reminiscent of the original Paradigms of Human Memory and the equally brilliant Curriculum Unavailable. The lifeless and implausible storylines that have plagued season four are merely background noise; Annie (Alison Brie) isn’t constantly fawning over Jeff, while Troy (Donald Glover) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) are no longer stuck in a deadbeat relationship, and the constant references and callbacks that had become so stale find new life in this origin story. As all those references to the group’s past lives that have been parceled out throughout the series come alive, we’re treated to a welcome nostalgic feeling. Even back then Britta was a buzz kill, failing at everything including being an anarchist – “What’s an anarchist to do without her organization….” And Annie did indeed run through a plate-glass door yelling, “Everyone’s a robot.” (Except it was Troy who was the robot).

Still, nothing’s really changed. Jeff and Shirley’s (Yvette Nicole Brown) heavy-handed drama over a seemingly nonexistent issue threatens to derail Heroic Origins at times. Abed still reprises his role as the pop-culture robot that has pervaded throughout season four, only it is acceptable now since this is the type of character expected of Abed before his growth in Greendale. While I love origin stories (Batman Begins is still my favorite Batman movie in the Christopher Nolan trilogy), the origin story in this episode masks the other issues with season four. Underneath it all, Heroic Origins is just another formulaic representation typical of the latest season—a scenario that escalates into a parody or theme and then ends with a forced feel-good ending.

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